Dotel to undergo surgery

Dotel to undergo surgery

OAKLAND -- Four doctors, including James Andrews and Lewis Yocum, two of the most famous physicians in big league baseball, have told A's closer Octavio Dotel that his right elbow doesn't need surgery.

Dotel's elbow is telling him otherwise.

A day after being told that he might have to learn to pitch through the pain that's dogged him since the start of Spring Training, Dotel decided that just wouldn't do. Andrews, who examined Dotel on Wednesday, will perform what's commonly known as "Tommy John" surgery on Dotel as soon as possible.

Actually, it's going to be more like a "John" surgery, because Dotel's elbow is getting only the second half of the standard procedure. It typically involves removing and replacing a damaged ulnar collateral ligament (UCL), but Dotel doesn't have a UCL, so he's having one added.

The recovery time is typically 18-24 months.

"I don't think I'd be a good pitcher throwing with pain," said Dotel, whose strained tendon and tendinitis landed him on the disabled list on May 20. "If I keep trying with the pain I have, I wouldn't be able to do my job."

Dotel's decision to go against the advice of several doctors (including two employed by the A's) who suggested he try the rest-and-rehab route, was met with a wide range of reactions.

"I've never seen this one before," said athletic trainer Larry Davis, who had noted Wednesday that a number of big league hurlers "routinely" pitch with the same condition afflicting Dotel.

"It's like the weather. If it's gonna rain, I can't do anything about it," said A's manager Ken Macha. "He's gotta do what he feels is best for himself, and obviously he feels this is best."

A's pitchers Huston Street and Barry Zito were considerably more sympathetic.

"It's terrible," said Street, a rookie right-hander whose temporary role as closer now appears permanent. "It's a huge loss for the team, and I feel awful for O.D. because I know how much he loves the game and how much he wants to be here for us. And personally, it's a loss for me, because I got a lot of advice from O.D. on a lot of things.

"I feel like he's probably helped me as much as anyone here. It's just a sad thing all the way around."

Zito dismissed the notion that Dotel, who is 1-2 with a 3.52 ERA and seven saves in 11 chances, might have been wise to wait a while, try a throwing program and possibly avoid surgery.

"Only he knows what's going on in his arm, and if Dotel says he can't pitch, trust me, he can't pitch," Zito said. "Dotel's a gamer. Anyone who questions that guy's heart doesn't know what they're talking about."

Added GM Billy Beane: "The player is hurt, and we believe him to be so."

Dotel said he agonized over the decision for about four weeks, and the vote that carried the most weight apparently came from his mother, Maria Diaz.

"She said, 'If you can't pitch no more, hey, we grew up with nothing, and now we have something, so it's OK.'"

Dotel's contract with the A's is up at the end of the season. And under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, Oakland will have to foot the bill for Dotel's surgery and lengthy rehabilitation. He said he will rehab in Miami to be close to his family in the Dominican Republic.

"I hope I can come back and earn my money," Dotel said. "[Even] if I've gotta be a setup man for Street."

Dotel went as far as to say he'd pitch for the A's for free next season if he's able to beat the standard recovery time, and he told Beane the same thing.

"A noble gesture," Beane said. "Let's hope we both have that option. ... These surgeries do take a long time to come back from."

Dribblers ...: Outfielder Bobby Kielty, who said he tweaked a groin muscle while scoring from first base on Nick Swisher's triple Tuesday night, did not start Thursday but was available to pinch hit. He said he should be fine for Friday's game. ... Eric Kubota, Oakland's director of scouting, met with reporters during batting practice to discuss the upcoming draft and said this year's talent pool is "just average." The A's have four of the first 69 picks.

Mychael Urban is a national writer for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.